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Prime Minister's Web Outreach "Useless" to Blind Canadians

Monday, March 15, 2010

“While it is refreshing to hear of Prime Minister Harper using modern technology to reach out to Canadians, the YouTube website is quite inaccessible to over 800,000 print disabled Canadians," says Donna Jodhan, 2nd Vice President of the nationwide Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC).

"Canadians who are blind would also like to be able to participate in this discussion alongside our fellow citizens," explains Jodhan, who is currently pursuing a Charter case against the Government of Canada for its own inaccessible websites. The Canadian government is continuing to ignore the pleas from Canadians who cannot read conventional print for equal access to information provided over Government of Canada websites.

"I had absolutely no choice but to launch my charter challenge because the government refused to listen to us. Modern technology can make it easier for everyone to communicate but this government is dragging its heels on removing barriers to our equal access to information on government websites," says Jodhan. While YouTube is not itself a Government of Canada website, it is nonetheless being used, in this instance, to conduct Government of Canada business. As such, Ms. Jodhan states that “consideration should have been given to the accessibility of the website for persons with disabilities."

Anthony Tibbs, AEBC's National Treasurer, notes that even with the latest browsers (such as Firefox 3.6 or Internet Explorer 8), using the latest in access technology for users who are blind (such as JAWS 11 or NVDA), YouTube videos are often not completely accessible. "Sure," he adds, "you can get the video to 'play,' but good luck getting it to stop, change volume, or do anything else with it."

"This is a most ironic situation, coming close on the heels of Canada's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD)," says John Rae, 1st Vice President of the AEBC. "We hope that the Charter challenge launched by Donna Jodhan will be an incentive or maybe a wake-up call for the government to realize that we are serious about claiming and protecting our legitimate rights," Rae concludes.

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